Friday, December 5, 2014

Guess who I met in Siem Reap

That of ‘the world is small’ is a recurrent theme in our Blog. Moreover, lately, for a strange stars’ alignment, I have been accidentally meeting many old friends during my trips. But of all the chance encounters of the past few months, this was the most unexpected…

Our Blog’s regular readers should well know Emanuele - my twin divided at birth (as well as best man) - and the story of our parallel lives that, sometime, cross each other: Turin 2000, Addis-Nairobi 2001-2003, London 2003-2005 (missed), Washington DC 2006-2009 (including Paris 27.06.2009), and Delhi 2009-2010.

Recapitulation of the last few years: while I was in Delhi, Emanuele moved to Mozambique. As Emanuele was regularly travelling to Delhi from Washington, his move to Maputo sadly interrupted his periodic visits and our regular meetings. Shortly after his move to Mozambique, I moved to Rome - perhaps not geographically, but certainly psychologically closer than Delhi. During this period, I have looked several times for an opportunity to go and visit him in Maputo - but, for a reason or another, I never managed it. Last August I have been very close to go to Mozambique on mission (I even had got my visa!) - but at the very last minute my trip was cancelled. And while I was thinking of a new chance to travel to Mozambique, Emanuele moved to Geneva. Well, now that Emanuele is just one-hour flight from us, I am sure we will be seeing each other more often, in Rome, Geneva or mid-way - I thought.

Well then, in fact we finally managed to see each other, but not in Rome, Geneva or mid-way, as I expected, but in the most improbable place and in the most accidental circumstances.

Last week I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to attend a workshop. On Thursday I was about to check-out from my hotel, and before switching-off my computer I absent-mindedly checked Emanuele’s Blog, and - unexpectedly - I saw his latest post announcing he had safely arrived in Cambodia two days earlier.


Without too much conviction (Cambodia is big, and the chances he was in Siem Reap were not too many), I wrote a comment on his post: Where are you?

Now, if the chances he was in Siem Reap were not too many, the chances he could read and respond to the comment in the few minutes before I checked-out were even fewer…

But against all the probabilities, Emanuele responded, and - surprisingly - he was in a hotel just five minutes far from mine!

And so, while rushing to the airport, I stopped by his hotel, where in 20 intense minutes we updated each other on the past two-three years. Looking forward to the next time: in Rome, Geneva, or… who knows???

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Leo & la scavatrice (Leo & the excavator)

- Leo, what was the thing that you liked more in Ischia?
- The excavator…

Sul traghetto (On the ferryboat)

The beauty of parenthood is that many of the things you have been doing for years, suddenly become exciting again as your children experience them for the first time.

This was the first time Leo and Tommy took a ferryboat. And, in a way, it was as if we had taken the ferry for the first time as well... 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mathie & Tommy

Tommy, mangi?

They say that when a couple decides to have two children in a row it is because the parents have been spoiled (or deceived) by the firstborn.

To a certain extent this applies to us as well. Leo was definitively a sleepyhead, and - above all - a big eater. We always tell the anecdote of Leo’s childcare teacher who once asked us whether Leo had breakfast at home, because “after the mid-morning snack, he picks the crumbs from the floor…”

To tell the truth, Tommy is not as sleepyhead as Leo, but - listening to the accounts of other parents - we can’t complain either.

But as far as food is concerned, he is an agony. Simply, he doesn’t eat. No matter if you beg him, if you threaten him, by hook or by crook, he does not eat.

So, please, Tommy… mangia!!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Benvenuti al Sud

February in Ischia: sunny, warm, with a clear blue sky… for two ‘northerns’ as Mathilde and I - who were used to long, grey and cold winters in our respective hometowns - Southern Italy is a wonder!

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Camping, hostel, bed & breakfast… since we discovered Airbnb, we became great subletting lodgings' supporters.

We love Airbnb!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I miei primi quarant’anni (My first forty years)

The 5 main achievements of my first 40 years (or the 5 things I am more proud of):

1. Two beautiful children (Leo 2011 and Tommy 2013), and a wonderful wife (Mathilde 2009)
2. Saved someone's life (from drowning, Awash National Park 2002)
3. Reached the roof of Africa (Kilimanjaro 2002)
4. Run a marathon (Milan 2012)
5. Swum with the whale-sharks (Yucatan 2007)

And the 5 things I wanted to do during my first 40 years, but didn’t manage (and that I wish I could achieve in my next 40 years…)

1. Writing a book
2. Climbing a 6,000 m
3. Climbing the Aguglia di Cala Goloritzè with Federico
Visiting Antarctica
5. Encountering the Wild Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

15 February in Ischia

It should have been something unusual, exceptional: a trip somewhere in an exotic place (Zanzibar?). Then, for practical considerations, it was converted into a trip somewhere in a still exotic but not too far place (Tunisia?). Then, it was turned into something more significant: a skiing week-end with my 1974-born friends (Courmayeur?). It eventually became a long-week-end with my little family in the near Ischia.

Could not think of a better way to celebrate my fortieth birthday…

Monday, November 24, 2014

La storia della fontana triste

Have you ever found yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to face one of your two-year-old child’s ‘why’ questions?

One day Leo saw a fountain that didn’t work, and asked me: ‘Why is that fountain sad?’

After a moment of hesitation, this is the answer I gave. This is the story of the sad fountain…

Quella fontana un tempo sprizzava acqua da tutti i pori. E un uccellino che abitava su quell’albero lì vicino andava ad abbeverarsi tutti i giorni dalle sue vasche.

Quel rituale aveva fatto diventare i due buoni amici, e la fontana era felice.

Ma un brutto giorno un signore catturò l’uccellino e lo mise in una gabbia. E da quel giorno l’uccellino non poté più andare ad abbeverarsi alla fontana.

La fontana lo aspettò, lo aspettò, lo aspettò -- giorno dopo giorno, settimana dopo settimana -- ma non vedendolo arrivare divenne sempre più triste, fino a quando smise di zampillare.

Solo se un giorno il signore libererà l’uccellino, o se un nuovo uccellino andrà a posarsi su una delle sue vasche, la fontana ritornerà ad essere felice e a spruzzar nuovamente acqua…

(I know, it's a sad story, with a sad ending. If you have a better ending, please send it to me, and we will update the story!)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Che orecchie grandi che ho

Che orecchie grandi che ho (What a big ears I have) is a music performance organized by the Rome Auditorium specifically addressed to 0 to 2 year old children to introduce them to music.

Children and parents are invited to sit on a big red carpet, in the middle of the orchestra, surrounded by several musical instruments: the piano, the violin, the flute, the drums...

As soon as the concert starts, the murmuring suddenly stops, and children fall mesmerized by the sound of the different instruments. But then, after a few minutes, they start interacting with the music, each in a very different and personal way: there are those that gently roll in the arms of their parents at the rhythm of the music, those that that softly hum, and those that stand and give the hint of a dance...

Beautiful, moving, difficult to describe. Perhaps this video can give an idea of the whole experience.

What a chance to have big ears!

Tommy - February 2014

Tommy occhietti neri...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Alla mostra di Nomachi (To Nomachi’s exhibition)

Kazuoshi Nomachi. Japanese photographer whose work focuses on portraying people who live in the most remote and harsh lands.

We didn’t know him, but his was one of the best photography exhibitions we have been to.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Dialoghi di Leo (Leo’s Dialogues)

- Papà, guarda, un aereo! Torna!
- Da dove?
- Dal Pakistan…

- Leo, dove sei stato ieri?
- Alle Terme di Calin-Calin*

(*) In francese, calin significa ‘coccola’

- Papà, dove andiamo?
- Al parco
- Perché andiamo al parco?
- Perché è una bella giornata
- Non voglio andare al parco!

- E dove vuoi andare?
- In ufficio…

- Daddy, look, an airplane! It comes back!
- From where?
- From Pakistan…

- Leo, where have you been yesterday?
- To the Baths of Calin-Calin**

(**) Calin means cuddle in French

- Daddy, where do we go?
- To the park
- Why do we go to the park?
- Because it’s a beautiful day
- I don’t want to go to the park!
- And where do you want to go?
- To the office…

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From Geneva to Kabul - 16 years later

But the most remarkable encounter was that with Henrik in Kabul in February.

Henrik was one of my best mates in Geneva, long time ago, in 1998, when we were both young interns at our first working experience.

After Geneva, we met once in Milan - when he (a great Inter supporter) came to watch an Inter match in San Siro, the Inter’ stadium.

Then we took different paths, and - despite email, facebook, linkedin, etc. - we progressively lost track of each other.

Until when, a few months ago, I accidentally found a message from him in the Spam folder of an email account that I don’t use anymore. He was telling a long list of people that he had moved to Afghanistan. That was right before my last mission to Afghanistan in February.

And so, 16 years later, we found each other chit-chatting in front of a coffee as if time hadn’t passed at all; as if we just had had a coffee the evening before. Knowing that probably there won’t be many opportunities to meet again in the future, but with the feeling that if one day we ended up living in the same place, we would certainly be ‘best mates’ again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

As a seaman (?)

Almost as a seaman who can boast a lover in each harbour in which he docks, it seems I can boast a friend in almost every town in which I land…

My last trips had several encounters with many old friends in store: Juan Carlos in Kabul in September, Martin in Lahore in November, Bruno in Islamabad in December (and then again in January), and Alejandro in Beijing in April.

And the pleasant feeling to be somehow at home wherever I am…

Monday, November 17, 2014

At Views on News

In my own little way, I also enjoyed my moment of celebrity during my last mission to Pakistan, before being reassigned to China.

For a couple of days I have been on all main Pakistan newspapers, and had a 45 minute live interview at Views on the News, a talk show on the Pakistan English Channel.


(Ps: tie: courtesy of sorella Chiara).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

If food wastage was a country...

“If food wastage was a country, Food Wastage would have the surface of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan together”.

“If Food Wastage was ranked among the most greenhouse gases polluting countries, then it would be the third most polluting country after China and the US”…

With these and other images, Mathilde was able to attract the attention of the general public on the problem of the impact of food waste on natural resources, gaining for a few days the limelight of media and blogs worldwide. She was even broadcasted on Radio Vaticana!

Did you have any doubt about Mathilde excelling when she started her job at FAO a couple of years ago?

Good job Mathilde!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hey, who’s this young lady sitting next to Graziano??

A few months later, we find her again, sitting close to Graziano De Silva, the Head of FAO.

Nobody is safe. Who will be her next target???

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Leo, leggi una storia a Tommy?

- Leo, leggi Pablo** a Tommy?
- No
- Perché no?
- Perché Tommy non capisce il francese…*

(*) “Leo, would you read Pablo to Tommy?”. “No”. “Why not?”. “Because Tommy doesn’t speak French…”

(**) 'Pablo il pinguino freddoloso' (Pablo the cold-blooded penguin) has been Leo’s favourite book for long time. Needless to say the book was in Italian… (For those who do not know the story, check the short movie here).

Monday, October 6, 2014

The best sea food meal in a long time! (2)

Even though we have spent more than three years in Rome by now, and even though there are a few places and restaurants where we like to return to, I am not sure we have found our ‘favourite’ restaurant yet.

Except, perhaps, for this restaurant in Sabaudia, about one hour and half from home.

When we feel like we need to stay a bit among ourselves, escape from the kids, and enjoy some peace and fresh air, particularly in winter, we take a day-off, leave the kids to Claudia, take the car and drive south, ‘til the sandy beaches of the Agro-Pontino, where, after a stroll on the beach, we refill to our ‘favourite restaurant !

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Not bamboccione anymore

Bamboccione was the term with which Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, a former Italian Minister of Finance, defined the typical Italian male of my generation: immature, over-spoiled, overgrown and still living with his parents.

And well, even if I left home back in 1998 after graduation, officially - according to the statistics - I could be considered a bamboccione in all respects.

When I in fact moved back to Italy in 2011 after India, I temporarily shifted my residence at my mum’s in Milan while waiting to find a permanent accommodation here in Rome. When we finally found a place to stay here in Rome, I then procrastinated to register myself to the Rome General Registry Office - initially light-heartedly simply because overwhelmed by other more priority duties, then deliberately after having experienced first-hand the challenges of registering Mathilde and Leo.

Anyway, after almost three years having lived as an ‘illegal’ resident in Rome, and after having contributed for three years to feed the statistics - and the stereotype - of the almost-forty-years-old Italian male still living with his parents, I then decided that time has come to grow-up, leave my motherly nest, and finally join my wife and my kids in Rome.

I would spare you the details of the story of my registration. I would just share this sketch, when I met the lady of the General Registry Office in charge of distributing the tickets with the numbers to regulate the priority access the various counters (the Rome General Registry Office does not have an automatic number distributor - or if it does, it doesn’t work):

- The lady (with a strong Roman accent): “What are you here for?”
- Myself (with a clear Northern accent): “I am here to change my residence”
- The lady: “Are you sure?”

(Am I sure???)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tommy - January 2014

It's so rare to see Tommy smiling, that when he does it, your heart beat speeds up, your stomach gets sized by cramps, your knees shake, the palm of your hands sweat, you feel breathless - in short, you feel in love...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Best ‘Foto per le mamme’ 2013

And the winner is... Les M&M's in Todi (June 2013)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Year’s eve chez Les M&M’s

From top/left: Guido, Peter, Sophie, Germana, Federico, Ewa, Marie-Aude, Mathilde, Matteo, Daniela, Alessandra e Marco.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Christmas in Rome

We must have been really good in 2013! After having found plenty of presents under the Paris and Milan’s Christmas trees, we found another plenitude of packages waiting for us under our Christmas tree in Rome at our return home.

Three Christmases in one week!